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Dark Summit

Review By:  Roger Taylor

Developer:  Radical Entertainment
Publisher:  THQ
# of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Adventure/Extreme Sports
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  4-9-02

With the success of Tony Hawkís Pro Skater and its sequels has come a barrage of games in the "extreme sports" genre. Most follow the same formula of "link tricks together to get big scores." When the Tony Hawk games used this method, it was fairly fresh. Most of us hadnít played games to get high scores since the days Space Invaders and Donkey Kong. Now, after dozens of copycat games, the formula already seems old and tired again. Enter Dark Summit, the first adventure-extreme sports crossover.

Dark Summit takes place on the ski slopes of Mt. Garrick, where snowboarding has been banned. You take the role of a female snowboarder named Naya, an outlaw of the slopes who is trying desperately to unveil the mysteries of the mountain. Your rivals are Chief OíLeary, the man in charge of Mt. Garrick, and his henchman. The game designers seem to be shooting for the kind of subversive "screw the establishment" mood that Jet Grind Radio evokes. However, the attempts seem forced and ultimately fail because of it. But thank you, Radical Entertainment, for including such risquť words as "crap," just in case we forget that the game is "extreme". Itís also hard to take the mood seriously, when they developers donít take their own story seriously. The convoluted, incomplete storyline also contains allusions to illegal toxic waste dumping, Nazi-like rhetoric spouted from loudspeakers and something to do with cows that Iím not going to reveal. Sounds pretty stupid right? It is. For whatever reason, Radical Entertainment decided a ridiculous, mildly humorous storyline would be more appropriate than a more realistic one. If you enjoy over-the-top farces, you should get into the story that drives Dark Summit.

The actual gameplay of Dark Summit revolves around completing various challenges. The challenges range from outrunning skiers, to grinding 5 rails in a certain amount of time (like a training mode), to collecting bombs. Yes, I said bombs. What better way to stick it to the man than by blowing the crap out of a mountain? Anyway, the challenges are fairly fun, and the developers seem to understand, for the most part, that having to try a mission a few times over makes it challengingÖwhile failing a few dozen times before getting it right is just frustrating. The difficulty level of the game is fairly solid.

Unfortunately, the original approach to the genre is the only thing that Dark Summit has going for it. It isnít as realistic of a simulation of snowboarding as 1080 on the N64; it doesnít have the speed of SSX Tricky; and it doesnít even come close to the Tony Hawk series in terms of rock-solid trick-based gameplay.

Still, developers Radical Entertainment tried hard to give gamers all the moves they could handle. The X-button handles all grabs, with each different direction and X giving you a different grab. Holding a direction with a grab will result in either a rotation or a flip. Pressing and holding the Y-button on an object will result in a grind, also known as a jib. Holding forward or back while grinding will result in a manual grindÖitís never adequately explained what this is. Holding the B-button at the top of a half-pipe will make your character do a lip move, but this youíll never use this trick after the first time. There are also special tricks, a nice addition, which take a button combination to complete. Most of the tricks move clumsily, without polish. This is particularly true of grinding, which ends of animating nothing like what its real-life counterpart looks like.

The graphics in Dark Summit are - in direct contrast to itís name - bright and colorful. They get the job done, but certainly arenít going to wow you. The GameCube can do much better than this. Cut scenes are done using the in-game graphics instead of FMV, which is acceptable since the cut-scenes are short and unmemorable anyway.

Dark Summit is a bit better in the sound department. The throbbing techno music generally fits the snowboarding atmosphere, and isnít at all intrusive or irritating. The sound effects fit nicely with the gameplay, and are varied enough not to seem repetitive. Sound clips of skiers and slope officials yelling at your character play during the game, as do the inexplicable German-accented mission statements over loudspeakers throughout the courses. All of the clips echo somewhat, which is a nice touch. The skiers complaining that you are boarding too fast, even as they pass you, can get irritating though.

The single-player game is good for about 10 hours of gameplay; not a long amount, but certainly not the worst of all the cheap-thrill games available these days. Three multiplayer modes are included: a standard race, a trick competition, and a unique Ė if ill-advised Ė mode in which the goal is to knock down as many obstacles as possible in a set time limit. All three modes are good for a few plays, but no more than that.

Itís refreshing to see developers trying new things in a time when sequels and clone games are so prevalent. Dark Summit is a nice change from the standard extreme sports game, but it canít cover up the fact that the genre has pretty much run its course. For that reason, Dark Summit was doomed from the start, but give THQ and Radical Entertainment a hand for trying.

Highs:

  • Genre-bending gameplay.
  • Good sound effects and music.

Lows:

  • Extreme sports games aren't fun anymore.
  • No replay value.
  • Lack of polish.

Final Verdict:

If you arenít tired out on extreme sports games yet, give Dark Summit a rental. Itís a solidly made game, but can be fully experienced in a few nights. Otherwise, stay far away.

Overall Score: 5.8

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